Besides conducting investigations of child abuse, student abuse, and assessments of families, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) refers and/or provides a full range of prevention and reunification services to families as alternatives to foster care, and provides foster care and adoption services when necessary. In all, there are more than 280 DHS-sponsored programs for families involved with the Office of Children, Youth and Families (CYF).
DHS helps provide many families with "a place to go." Of 33 Family Support Centers in Allegheny County, 27 are funded by DHS. DHS also funds the First Steps program, which is a voluntary program that mentors new mothers by providing a home visitor for mothers with children from birth through five years of age. DHS funding also supports the Summer Fund and Year-Round Funds for Children’s Programs, which provide positive and enriching summer (camp) and after-school programming for children with high levels of need or risk.
The CYF philosophy is to keep families intact if at all possible. CYF makes referrals and provides a wide array of services through visits from a caseworker, other DHS offices, and a network of DHS contracted providers.
Many families receive in-home services through referrals from their CYF caseworker. In-home services may include the provision of family counseling, parenting classes, child abuse prevention training, life skills training, crisis intervention and/or family reunification services at the family’s home. Services are provided on a continuum and tailored for each family’s situation. A strong component of every in-home service is to teach family members to use and get involved with community-based services, rather than services provided by the child welfare system.
Recognizing that addictive disease disorder is a major reason why families become involved with child welfare, CYF utilizes Pennsylvania Organization for Women in Early Recovery (P.O.W.E.R.) Connection, to conduct comprehensive assessments for substance use, referrals to treatment, service coordination, mentoring, relapse prevention, consultation and follow-up care.
CYF initiated the DADS program in May 2010 to reach out to and engage custodial and non-custodial fathers involved in CYF, as well as to develop trainings focused on father-engagement principles and offer them to CYF and provider staff. Through increased engagement, DADS aims to give fathers more confidence in their role as fathers, as well as in child-welfare-related courtroom settings, with the ultimate goal of strengthening their families and being reunified with their child(ren).
Family Group Decision Making (FGDM)
The FGDM model asserts that extended family members are a critical source of support and of the information required to make the best decisions when a child needs protection or care from child welfare or other public systems. As standard practice, staff from FGDM attend pre-hearing conference, and all permanency planning conferences and assist with Family Finding engagements. FGDM has proven highly effective in engaging the parent(s), extended family and natural supports as active participants in the effort to maintain or restore family unity.
Family Group Decision Making Brochure
DHS: Making an Impact - Family Group Decision Making. These publications focus not on budget figures or service data but on the impact our services are having on real people.
Family Group Decision Making in Child Welfare by American Humane
Family Focused Solution Based Services
The Family Focused Solution Based (FFSB) Program is designed to work with families which are involved in either the child protective service system or the juvenile justice system who could benefit from intense therapeutic and support services such as coping capacities, problem-solving abilities and life skills, or improving management of stress and parenting skills.
Family Focused Solution Based Services Brochure
Inua Ubuntu was initiated to counter the over-representation of African American males in the child welfare system. The program uses indigenous community resources to keep children safe in their homes. Through the utilization of community partners, children and families have access to a wider array of services and protective factors that result in fewer children entering placement.
Inua Ubuntu: A Community Response to Disproportionality
Children's Bureau Express, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, June 2011